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If you can find them used the Ascend Acoustics Sierra 1 would be a great choice -- great looks and superior sonics. Ditto the Epos M5, or you could get the ELS-3 new for about 400 bucks and obviously even less used.
Noticed there's a new pair of Silverline Minuets for sale here for $490. Another great choice.
As far as imaging outside the box you might consider the Gallo A'Divas if she's into balls (for looks I mean).
Hard to see going wrong with any of these. Best of luck.
Wow, we don't have a clue about what this woman's taste in music is, what equipment she's going to use with whatever speakers she chooses, the room she plans to put the speakers in, but already we have many people giving suggestions about what speakers to buy. Anybody know what's wrong with this approach? To many people around here, are very quick to say "but this, buy that" without having any idea about what really needed or what might works best for this woman. Perhaps, some of y'all before you "shrill" your favorites, you might want to ask some necessary information. It's the type of thing that might help make someone make an educated decision. What works for you, might not be what's best for somebody else. As I see it, the orginal poster has given very little information to work from, and that being the case I would be hesitant to make any recommendation whatsoever.
Cleaneduphippy makes some very good points, and it's frustrating how many people look for advice here without giving a clue as to what they're looking for or what they already have. As a general rule I don't respond to posts that aren't more specific, but in this case since someone else is doing the research it seemed obvious she isn't an audiophile so I felt OK making suggestions that meet the requirements as stated. I would bet she'd be thrilled with the majority of recommendations made here, and at the very least we can all feel a little better knowing she won't end up with something from Bose.
Condolences on the cleaned up thing.
I prefer to know more before recommending usually, but there are certain models in this price range that a layperson can surely build a nice system around and I have no problem pointing someone to these and then letting them decide. It beats the alternative of picking randomly based on whim because there is also a lot of junk out there for this price.
Gotta try Milton C. Mueller SB-2 with Ribbon tweeters--for $300 a pair you can afford a sub. If you don't like them you can send them back but they are unbelievably good. Also, on the used market you can try Apogee Centaur Major or Minor $500-600 major, 300-400 minor. Major is recommended as it has more bass but the ribbon driver is the same on both and very transparent and airy.
Btw, for those who are wondering what the "cleaned up" thing is all about, it just means that certain things you might have done in the "hippy days" you've let go of. While I still enjoy a little "herbal enhancement" from time to time, all the other stuff I let go of, way back in the 80s. So now you know what a "cleaneduphippy" is all about.
No, she's definitely not an audiophile. I posted the question because I was trying to provide her with suggestions other than Bose which she was actually looking at. Musically, she mostly listens to light rock, new age, pop (generally upbeat with synths), classical, and a little folk. As far as the system is concerned, this probably won't be very helpful, but there's a sony str-de895 receiver, a pioneer pd-m501 cd player, and unlabeled PSB speakers manufactured in the early 90's (I think they might be the alpha B's). She was going to replace the system component by component as she acquired the funds and was going to start with her cd player, but I suggested that she upgrade the speakers first because that generally leads to the greatest amount of improvement. I believe the receiver puts out something like 100 watts per channel and the receiver should be able to drive the speakers for the time being, although I guess the alternative is to save up and buy speakers and an integrated amp in one shot.
What a concept ... someone who buys equipment and actually holds on to it. So most likely, your friend will hold on to this equipment for another 15 years. So, she wants stuff that will sound good, look good, and last another 2 presidential elections. So, let's think systems.
I don't like buying used. I prefer to buy close-outs, look for deals, etc. If you were to look at new clearance items that Audio Advisor is offering right now, you could do the following pairings. I own or have owned this equipment at one time or another and have paired it together over the last 6 years.
NAD amp/ Energy speakers ($633)
NAD receiver/ Energy speakers ($833)
NAD amp/ NHT speakers ($950)
NAD receiver/ NHT speakers ($1150)
Cambridge Audio amp/ cd player/ Energy speakers ($933)
Cambridge Audio amp/ cd player/ NHT speakers ($1250)
1. NAD receiver at 500
2. NAD amp at 300
3. Energy speakers at 333
4. NHT speakers at 650
5. Cambridge Audio amp at 300
6. Cambridge Audio CD player at 300
Another option is to buy a $1600 pair of speakers for $800 like these Spendor 3se and gradually grow a system around them.
She isn't asking for recommendations on speakers that cost a few grand - just $600. There aren't that many good ones that we'd need to know what her musical preferances are.
The best speakers in the $600 class are limited in one way or another, and I doubt the different music going through them would make 'that big' of a difference. Take the Bose-they sound terrible no matter what type of music goes through them - and doubt any speaker in this range would/could play large scale classical without compormising (hy, even the Magico Minis don't do that, and they're $29,000). So, keeping it simple - how about just go with the B&W 685? Right at $600 bucks? It's like someone asking me to recommend a $200 CD player and my asking what type of music they listen to? What's the difference? I think we're just showing how stuck up our hobby can be. Someone is asking about an inexpensive speaker and we are asking the same questions as if they were buying expensive ones.
"The best speakers in the $600 class are limited in one way or another, and I doubt the different music going through them would make 'that big' of a difference."
Well Carrot, why did you even post the question if that the way you feel about $600 class speakers? While you are correct that speakers in this price range have their limitations, the fact is what those limitations may be vary greatly beween the various makes of speakers. and what their designers think is the best compromises to make in keeping a speaker at certain price point. Anyway, based on what you posted about your friends listening taste, and associated equipment. I would probably be like Rar1 (Rich) and would suggest either the Energy RC-10 or the NHT Classic Two or Three. All are incredibly good souding and good looking speakers at their price point, and should she in the future, wish to upgrade her other components these speakers would be more than ready to fit into an upgraded system.
PS: Just curious on why your friend wants to get rid of her "unlabeled PSB"? From what I remember, their Alphas were some good sounding little speakers.
She knows little about audio and wanted to replace the cd player to improve the sound of the system which has a really small sound stage and seems to drown out a lot of the high frequencies (female vocals, violins, etc. can barely be heard in the presence of male vocals, drums, etc.). I suggested the speakers, which are definitely not the weakest link, because changing speakers typically has the most drastic effects on the sound of an audio system. I hooked up my North Star cd player in place of her cd player today to see whether or not it would make a difference and, surprisingly enough, it actually made a world of a difference. More detail, tighter bass, etc. I guess there is always the option of spending the same money on an integrated amp or a cd player such as the rotel rcd 1072.
I'm going to take the side of your female friend, and say replace the "weak link" first, which seems to be her CDP. One that I've owned and though was a good sounding player is the NAD C542. If her speakers are PSB Alphas, then she already has some good speakers, and while getting some $600 a pair speakers may be an improvement, it could also prove not to be the case. Bottom line, keep the speakers, replace the CDP, and that may be all she needs, to solve her soundstaging and high frequency problems. If not, then I would also be looking at an integrated amp (and there are good sounding, affordable offering from NAD, Cambridge Audio, Denon, Rotel, Marantz, ect) as an integrated should give her better performance than her receiver (which may be the real "weak link"). Basically the "speaker first" approach works great if someone is building a complete system. Otherwise, I would subscribe to "relacing the weakest link" method. Remember, a system is only going to sound as good as it's "weakest link". You could find yourself in a situation, where "upgraded speakers" only further magnatizes the weaknesses of the components in front of them.
I'm also thinking buying another pair of speaks for $600 will not make much difference from the current PSBs, if this model PSB sounds like others I have heard.
If the CD has a digital output, an outboard DAC might be the best investment for $600. An mhdt Paradisea can be had for under %500 and make a real difference in the sound.
If she's using a stock RCA interconnect between CD and receiver, maybe upgrade that to a decent Audioquest or similar IC for under $100 also.
There's an instructive, current thread concerning soundstage that might be useful here. Has your friend experimented with moving the speakers around in the room?
I don't think that the Pioneer CD player is necessarily the problem, unless it is beginning to show its age and not work well after 15 years. I owned one of these players years ago and it was a fine player and is definitely keeping with the level of the rest of your friend's system.
Even when this system was brand new, the SONY receiver was the limiting component. It is your basic SONY HT receiver, fine for what it is, but music is not its strong suit.
My question about the PSB speakers would be ... what shape are the woofer surrounds in?
I don't mean to spend your friend's money or come across as snooty, but it just sounds like it may be time to replace the system. You can do it piecemeal, but the whole system really needs to go. I went through this two years ago with a good friend and she resisted like heck, but in the end she spent about $700 on TEAC 500 series mini separates (receiver and dvd player) and NHT speakers. The new system sounds great, she's happy, and she felt that she got her money's worth. This may be the situation here.
What do you define as low budget. Have you head of tekton design? Eric is great guy. We both worked at kimber kable years ago. He has a few buget models that might work for you. Take a look at his 4.5 or 6.5 models.
Or you could also build your own. Here are few of my projects.